Mammoth Cave Is Longer That Previously Thought, By 10 Miles At Least

Some caves continue to grow, either through natural geologic forces, or simply through greater exploration. In the case of the cave protected by Mammoth Cave National Park, human exploration has pushed its length by 10 miles, to 400 miles total.

Mammoth Cave Superintendent Sarah Craighead and Cave Research Foundation President Charles Fox jointly announced that news Friday at the Mammoth Cave Science Symposium.

The National Park Service manages Mammoth Cave and 52,830 acres above it in south-central Kentucky. Members of the Cave Research Foundation volunteer to explore, survey, and map the cave under a general agreement with the Park Service. Discovery and mapping of the cave allows the Park Service to better manage and protect its geological and biological underground resources.

“The Cave Research Foundation has been a key partner with Mammoth Cave since 1956, sharing our commitment to cave and karst stewardship,” said Superintendent Craighead. “Their volunteers make things happen that otherwise would not be possible.”

Added Mr. Fox, “The expansion of the Mammoth Cave system in the last few years has been a matter of incremental additions to many parts of the cave rather than a single major discovery that pushed the cave past 400 miles. In recent years we have resurveyed sections of the cave so that we can produce more detailed maps that meet modern mapping standards, as well as exploring and mapping previously unexplored passages. We have been able to reach this milestone because of the cooperative work of the Cave Research Foundation, the National Park Service, and also the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition working in a section of Mammoth Cave that lies outside the Park boundary.”

The Cave Research Foundation has operations in multiple areas, one of which is Mammoth Cave National Park, with a major focus on cave exploration and cartography. However, the group’s volunteers also assist with projects involving restoration, cave gate installation, inventory and monitoring of cave resources, and logistical support for scientific research.

In 2012, the Cave Research Foundation contributed 10,669 volunteer hours to Mammoth Cave National Park, a value of more than $230,000.